Almost a year to the day since Britons shocked themselves and their neighbors by voting on June 23 to cut loose from their main trading partner, and nearly three months since Prime Minister Theresa May locked them into a two-year countdown to Brexit in March 2019, almost nothing about the future is clear.
"This first session was useful, we start off on the right foot as the clock is ticking", Barnier said at a joint press conference with Davis.
"The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. And so bridging between Churchill and Monnet, I am certainly a determined optimist".
The five of key United Kingdom business bodies have come together to call for continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal is made with the EU.
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Most of the first day of talks focused on the Northern Ireland issue, which Davis said would take time because it is complex and sensitive.
The Brexit negotiations started as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox met U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington.
Those were, he said, the rights of expatriate citizens and problems of a new EU-UK border, notably cutting across Ireland.
The initial subjects to be negotiated include Britain's exit bill for past financial commitments made to the European Union, the rights of European Union citizens in Britain and vice versa, and so-called "other separation issues".
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The EU had demanded early agreement on the rights of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, the Brexit divorce bill and the Northern Irish border, before any discussions could begin on a trade deal.
The UK Government had wanted the talks to take place in parallel but has now accepted the timetable set out by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
For now, the Northern Ireland issue will be negotiated separately, but given its border with European Union member Ireland some of those talks are likely to include trade issues. Perhaps more important, they begin just 10 days after a humbling election setback revived divisions within May's government on what kind of relationship it wants with the EU. While "Brexiteers" like Davis have strongly backed May's proposed clean break with the single market and customs union, finance minister Philip Hammond and others have this month echoed calls by businesses for less of a "hard Brexit" and retaining closer customs ties. Never before has a country sought to leave.
Barnier has said a divorce deal should be ready by October next year to give time for parliamentary approval.
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